Texas Hill Country Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program

New Adventures in New Braunfels

It was the summer after second grade for me, and my older brother, Jake, just finished fifth grade. Our family is pretty close, and as a special treat to celebrate the arrival of summer, our family had planned a trip to New Braunfels! Mom and Dad always liked trying new things together as a family, and they thought that New Braunfels would have plenty to keep us busy.

Wildlife in a natural habitat

First stop, Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch. The weather was perfect as we drove through the safari scape. Tranquil blue skies and fresh air made this an ideal day to spend outdoors. The breeze blew on our faces as the tall grasses swayed on either side of the car, as we drove through. We were given animal feed with our admission tickets, and dropped it on the ground outside our car to feed the curious Kudu that approached. Driving through the park, we witnessed emu, enormous ostriches, and my favorite, giraffes. Their lofty stride seemed to make them roll across the ground with lanky necks swaggering smoothly, reaching far into the sky. They extended their plum colored tongues and wrangled them around the leaves. This experience was too cool not to stop. We pulled over and silently watched the giraffes, in awe.     

“This is like a super cool zoo! I didn’t know there was a place to be SO close to the animals!” I laughed.

“It‘s pretty cool, huh?,” replied my dad.

Visiting the animals so closely, feeding them, and watching them in a natural habitat was amazing.

Splashing Around

Next we headed to Schlitterbahn! We couldn’t stay for more than a day, so we had to choose what we most wanted to try. My choice was the Wolfpack Raft Slide. This slide is gigantic! We raced down all together in a huge raft, screaming with laughter; swooshing around each turn as the cool water splashed around us. Next, we rode the Master Blaster Uphill Water Coaster. The raft dropped down three stories then propelled up, then down, through tunnels, and around again, like a very wet roller coaster. Our hearts were seriously pumping by the end of the ride!

The most incredible ride was the Sky Coaster, a freefalling swing that combined skydiving and hang-gliding in one amazing experience. Once harnessed in, we dangled horizontally and were slowly raised higher and higher into the sky. Just as we got to the top, Jake hollered, “Here we goooooo!” Then we dropped and swung forward with a blasting force. We swung backwards, forwards, and back again, overlooking the whole park. The Sky Coaster definitely ended our visit on an adrenaline high.

The oldest dance hall in Texas

The sun was almost down now and Dad was really jazzed about visiting the drive-in, but first, Mom wanted to stop at Gruene Hall, the oldest dance hall in Texas. It was built over 135 years ago and has been in operation ever since. We entered the barn-style building, boasting high ceilings and worn wooden floors—a true Texas legend. The dance floor was packed with couples, spinning and twirling. Dad playfully bowed to me and asked me to dance. Mom beamed as she took Jake’s hand, and soon we were all whirling on the dance floor like pros. We had a blast dancing to live country music—Jake and I had never tried that before. The band played original songs, but also rocked out some classic country. 

Dinner and a drive-in movie

After hanging up our dancing shoes, we headed over to the Stars and Stripes Drive-In to relax with a movie. The drive-in had a vintage feel, complete with a bright 1950s-style red, white, and blue sign. Famished after our busy day, we dug into drive-in classics:  cheesy pizza, hot buttery popcorn and ice-cold soda. With the car windows rolled down, the breeze cooled our skin as we settled in for the double feature. Family Movie Night was the perfect way to wrap up our first day.

Sports galore

The next morning we visited action-packed Texas Ski Ranch, a 70-acre sports paradise that’s one of the top facilities in the world for board sports. The staff was welcoming and helpful in introducing us to everything available.  Jake talked me into wake boarding on the lake (a totally new experience for me). It was thrilling to be pulled so fast, gliding over the rippled water, with the wind in my face. The board lifted off the surface and into the air—for just a second it felt like I was flying. Meanwhile, Jake hit the skatepark to show off his skills.

Floating on the river

When we had finished our adrenaline rush, we decided to enjoy some downtime on the Comal River. We rented tubes, walked down to the river, and jumped in. The Texas heat made the chilly water inviting. Just beyond the launch point we came upon the first tube shoot. It forced the water and tubes through a bottleneck; shot us over small rapids and out the other side. Then we settled in for a smooth ride down the pristine, lazy river. We chatted easily, enjoying nature and spending time together as a family. As our tubing adventure ended, we were ready for a meal.

Historic Phoenix Saloon

We headed to the Phoenix Saloon, the first Texas bar to serve women. It took us back in time to an old-fashioned saloon with a mirror above the bar, brick walls and a decorative tin ceiling. The atmosphere was mellow and relaxing, just what we needed after our action-packed experiences. However, this relaxing atmosphere wasn’t always the tone here back in the old days. Our server explained how the Saloon used to have badger fights, an alligator pit, and even a bell to ring when you needed drinks—it was a real Old West saloon! The founders were German settlers and their son invented chili power at the Saloon in 1895, a pretty impressive claim-to-fame! Jake and I were inspired to order chili. We both love spicy food and it was totally delicious.

My parents were right, New Braunfels definitely had tons of fun things that gave us new adventures. Now Jake and I are ready to come back next summer!

Discover your sense of adventure in New Braunfels!

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